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Harriet A. Hall

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Harriet A. Hall

Harriet A. Hall
Dr. Harriet Hall on the JREF Amazing Adventure — North to Alaska
Born (1945-07-02) 2 July 1945
Residence Puyallup, Washington, United States
Known for Criticism of alternative medicine
recorded in March 2014


Harriet A. Hall (born July 2, 1945) is an American retired family physician, former U.S. Air Force flight surgeon and skeptic who writes about alternative medicine and quackery for Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer.


Hall received her B.A. and M.D. from the University of Washington. She was only the second woman to do her internship in the Air Force and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base.[1]

Hall says she was a "passive skeptic" for quite some time, only reading the literature and attending the various meetings.[2] She met Wallace Sampson at the Skeptic's Toolbox workshop in Oregon. He convinced her to write an article for the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine[3] testing so-called "Vitamin O" products she had seen advertised in the mail.[4] She then began writing articles for Skeptical Inquirer.[5][6] When she spoke to Michael Shermer at The Amazing Meeting about the book The God Code, he encouraged her to write a review of it for Skeptic Magazine.[7] She wrote other articles for that publication, and since late 2006 she has had a regular column in it titled The SkepDoc.[2] This is also the name of her web site.[8] Before the Toolbox, "I had not done any writing... one thing led to another and now I'm on the faculty of the Skeptic's Toolbox."[9]

She has been an outspoken critic of alternative medicine, often questioning its effectiveness. "If it were shown to be truly effective, it would be part of regular medicine."[10] In her work she emphasizes the importance of following the scientific evidence for or against any remedy. When asked about the anti-cold remedy Airborne she said, "There's more evidence for chicken soup than for Airborne. In the absence of any credible double-blind studies to support the claims for Airborne, I'll stick to hand washing."[11] She has also criticized the U.S. Army for its use of acupuncture, saying "the idea that putting needles in somebody's ear is going to substitute for things like morphine is just ridiculous."[12]

Each of the faculty of 2012's Skeptic's Toolbox are presented by long-time attendees Carl and Ben Baumgartner, with a Honorary In The Trenches Award. Ray Hyman, Lindsay Beyerstein, James Alcock, Harriet Hall and Loren Pankratz[13]
Hall at TAM (The Amazing Meeting) 2012 Back of shirt says, I'm a Skeptic, not a "skepchick", not a "Woman Skeptic", Just a Skeptic

She has publicly criticized the recommendations and products of Daniel G. Amen in an article at Quackwatch[14] and elsewhere, saying "Amen's recommendations defy science, common sense and logic."[15] She has also criticized many other proponents of alternative therapies, including Andrew Weil.[16]

She is an advisor to Quackwatch[17] and an Associate Editor of the Science-Based Medicine blog.[1]

She has spoken at the Science-Based Medicine Conference[18] and The Amazing Meeting 7,[19] among other venues in 2009. She has been interviewed on podcasts such as The Reality Check,[3] Skepticality[20] and The Skeptic Zone.[2]

In 2008 she published an autobiography focusing on her experiences as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force (she retired as a full Colonel). As a female physician, Air Force officer, pilot and flight surgeon she was a minority in several respects, and encountered prejudice. The title of the book refers to an incident after her first solo flight when an airport official told her, "Didn't anybody ever tell you women aren't supposed to fly?"[19][21]

Harriet Hall accepts award from the IIG August 21, 2010

Starting in the January 2010 issue, Hall had a regular 250-word column in O, The Oprah Magazine debunking common health myths.[22] Her relationship with the magazine was rocky, and the column ended in the June 2010 issue.[23]

Hall is on the board and a founding member of the recently (2009) formed Institute for Science in Medicine. In 2010 Hall was elected a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.[24]

On August 21, 2010 Hall was honored with an award recognizing her contributions in the skeptical field, from The IIG during its 10th Anniversary Gala.[25]

Hall also spoke at the 6th World Skeptic Congress in Berlin, "Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fairy Tale Science and Placebo Medicine".[26]

Hall spoke at both a workshop and on a panel at The Amazing Meeting 2012. The workshop was called "Dr. Google".[27] Also included were Dr. Steven Novella, Dr. David Gorski, and Dr. Rachael Dunlop. The workshop dealt with "How to find reliable health information online and elsewhere, and skeptically evaluate the information you find."
The panel was entitled "The Truth About Alternative Medicine"[28] and had the same participants as the workshop.

Personal life

She is married, and resides in Puyallup, Washington[3] with her husband Kirk (who is also retired from the Air Force). She has two grown daughters.[19]

At book signing TAM 2013

Selected publications

Highlights and publications mentioned in this article:


  1. ^ a b "Harriet Hall, MD". Science-Based Medicine. Retrieved August 8, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c   (Interview from 46:00 to 50:25)
  3. ^ a b c "TRC #49: Homeopathy 101 + Harriet Hall Interview + Sex on the Mind Myth". The Reality Check podcast. Ottawa Skeptics. August 1, 2009. Retrieved August 1, 2009.  (Interview from 16:08 to 33:25)
  4. ^ Hall, Harriet A. (Spring–Summer 2003), "Analysis of Claims and of an Experiment to Prove That Oxygen is Present in "Vitamin O"",  
  5. ^ Hall, SI (27)3 2003.
  6. ^ Hall, SI (30)3 2006.
  7. ^ Hall, Harriet (2005). "Seek and Ye Shall Find. Book review of The God Code: The Secret of Our Past, the Promise of Our Future, by Greg Braden". Skeptic Magazine 11 (4): 85–6. 
  8. ^ "SkepDoc Columns". The SkepDoc. Retrieved August 8, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Loren Pankratz and Harriet Hall discuss the Skeptic's Toolbox". Retrieved 8/10/2012. 
  10. ^ Kranish, Michael (July 24, 2009). "Senators seek coverage for alternative therapies".  
  11. ^ Shermer, Michael (January 2007). "Airborne Baloney: The latest fad in cold remedies is full of hot air".  
  12. ^ Farmer, Blake (February 16, 2012), Military Pokes Holes In Acupuncture Skeptics' Theory,  
  13. ^ "Skeptic's Toolbox Awards - 2". Retrieved 8/12/2012. 
  14. ^ Hall, Quackwatch 2005.
  15. ^ Burton, Robert (May 12, 2008). "Brain scam: Why is PBS airing Dr. Daniel Amen's self-produced infomercial for the prevention of Alzheimer's disease?". Salon. p. 3. Retrieved August 8, 2009. 
  16. ^  
  17. ^ "Medical Advisors". Quackwatch. July 18, 2003. Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved August 8, 2009. 
  18. ^  
  19. ^ a b c "The Amaz!ng Meeting 7 Speakers".  
  20. ^  
  21. ^ Hall 2008.
  22. ^ Thorp, Brandon K. (December 10, 2009). "Harriet Hall's Big Big News". SWIFT. James Randi Educational Foundation. Retrieved December 10, 2009. 
  23. ^ Hall, Harriet A. (September 7, 2010), "Write for Oprah? Wrong for Me", Science-Based Medicine, retrieved September 8, 2010 
  24. ^ "Sixteen Notable Figures in Science and Skepticism Elected CSI Fellows". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. January 12, 2010. Retrieved January 12, 2010. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Promoting Science in an Age of Uncertainty". 6th World Skeptic Congress. Retrieved 2012-07-17. 
  27. ^ "Dr. Google". Retrieved July 12, 2012. 
  28. ^ "The Truth About Alternative Medicine". Retrieved July 15, 2012. 

External links

  • The SkepDoc
  • Science-Based Medicine
  • Tooth Fairy Science and Other Pitfalls: Applying Rigorous Science to Messy Medicine, Part 1
  • Tooth Fairy Science and Other Pitfalls: Applying Rigorous Science to Messy Medicine, Part 2
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